Harry Potter: The Dark Magic of Nonstick Pots and Pans
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Dear Real Moms,
We recently inherited a heavy old cast-iron pot from my husband’s aunt. To be honest, I wasn’t too excited at first, because my cabinets are already beyond full. But since a few of my other pots and pans are the nonstick kinds, I thought I’d see what you have to say about which kind is best to use. — Nora, Trenton, NJ.
Thanks for the great question, Nora! As someone who’s constantly trying to declutter (often in vain), I can totally relate to your dilemma. A super heavy, crazy old skillet can definitely seem like an unnecessary addition—until you realize the newer, nonstick cookware so many of us rely on is potentially toxic.
According to the Environmental Working Group, tests have shown that nonstick pots and pans can emit six toxic gases, including two carcinogens, when preheated on high. And while the debate around these findings is, ahem, heated between proponents and naysayers, my personal MO is just to avoid the problem altogether by putting the kibosh on nonstick cookware in my kitchen. I’ve cleared my cupboards of Teflon-coated pots and pans to make extra sure potentially dangerous chemicals aren’t infiltrating my family’s food.
So, Nora, my advice is to go ahead and make some space for the new-to-you skillet by tossing the nonstick kinds.
For those of us who don’t have a cast-iron fairy godmother, consider one of these alternatives:
New cast-iron cookware: Lodge Cast Iron has been churning cookware out since 1896. You can get ‘em pre-seasoned or not, and they’re not too pricey—a 10-inch skillet runs upwards of $22. Le Creuset also has some great picks, but you’re paying extra for the pretty, colorful enamel coating.
Ceramic bakeware: This clean material is perfect for things like casseroles, pies, and cookies. I swear by Emile Henry’s cassoulet pots and pie dishes, which are a busy mom’s dream since they’re easy to clean to boot.
Glass: Okay, so we all know glass isn’t a good pick for a skillet—but it’s definitely appropriate for things like baking casseroles and pies. And even though you’ll want to use a little butter or oil to keep things from sticking, no worrisome chemicals pour out when glass goes in the oven.
At the end of the day, as with so many things in this day and age, it’s a bit of a guessing game. We don’t yet know just how harmful things like cell phones and hormone-pumped meat may be in the long run. Maybe they’ll be perfectly benign. But when it comes to my family’s health, I’m not taking any unnecessary chances. Especially when it’s as easy as trading out a nonstick pan for something way cuter by Emile Henry…just sayin’.
By the way, if you’re interested in more tips and tricks when it comes to cookware, you’ll definitely want to check out my new book, Real Moms Love to Eat, which you can preorder now from Penguin Books.